Hugh Townsend has ‘lived his dream’ and now he’s ‘Remembering Pictou County.’
In his first book, I’ve Lived My Dream, the sports writer delights readers with stories about his meeting sports heroes, athletes like Mickey Mantle, Frank Mahovlich, Gordie Howe. In his newest and second book, titled Remembering Pictou County, Townsend provides almost 80 profiles on sports-minded Pictonians — athletes and boosters alike.
Townsend has spent more than 60 years writing, researching and studying sports, from athletes to sports fans, builders to boosters. His newest book — at approximately 110,000 words — delves into the life and times of many Pictou County sports figures.
It took Townsend six months to write Remembering Pictou County. “I started on April Fool’s Day,” he chuckled over his cup of coffee at the Pictou Tim Hortons.
“The first one was the highlights of my career, like the Olympics and meeting the Queen and covering the World Series and all of those major things. This one is strictly my memories of all my years of working with Pictou County people.”
The New Glasgow-born Townsend noted, “Before I left for Halifax to live, I was writing for 15 years in Pictou County – five with The Evening News and then 10 years with The Herald, 48 years with the Herald in total. So in all those different positions, I was getting to know all of these people. Everyone in this book I got to know personally. And for 19 years now, I’ve been writing a column in Pictou County. And I interviewed a lot of people for The Advocate that I never interviewed before, even though I knew them from the 1950s.”
He lists Mark Babineau, Bobby Beaton, Tic Williams and Archie MacDonald as just a few people mentioned in Book 2.
“It was always my goal to write a book on Pictou County. I’m not aware of any sports book devoted completely to Pictou County.”
The people mentioned in Townsend’s newest book played their sport in his lifetime. “I didn’t bother going back to write about people I never met.”
There are several people Townsend wrote about in the second book who stand out for him.
“Jackie Hayden, the boxer who went off to live in Los Angeles, kept in touch with me for many years. And there was nobody who was closer to me than John ‘Brother’ MacDonald. Everybody says he was their inspiration.” In fact, about 20 people Townsend writes about in his newest book credit MacDonald as being their inspiration.
A lot of the people Townsend wrote about he knew from covering their high school sports adventures and they went on to make a mark for themselves in their chosen career.
“Frankie Sim from Stellarton, I covered his hockey games from Stellarton High School. He’s the one who became so famous with the Mayo Clinic. Then Bobby Stroud, a Stellarton rugby star who became a judge. And there’s the Halifax and District Baseball League in the 50s. My first job was going with John ‘Brother’ MacDonald all around the league. He was broadcasting and I was his statistician. I was in Grade 10,” he chuckles.
It was right after that summer that Townsend began working with The Evening News; he was in Grade 11.
Also mentioned in the book are hockey players like Nelson Wilson and two goalies, Hughie and Sonny MacDonald. “They were both so good. They used to play in the Maritime Big Four and they used to play against each other, they’d each end up with a different team. They were brothers, from Trenton. And of course there’s Lowell MacDonald. We were friends way back.”
No book on Pictou County sports would be complete without a chapter on Colin White and Jon Sim and their Stanley Cup victories. Bay View’s Joey MacDonald has a chapter as does another former local hockey great, Kevin Campbell.
There is also a chapter on John Hamm and his hockey scoring accolades. “John Hamm and I were in school together, went to the same church together, Boy Scouts …” This is in the book: “John is the first local hockey player to score a goal in a game at New Glasgow Stadium. The first night they opened the Stadium there was two Maritime teams — Charlottetown and Sydney — and the next morning in a minor game he was the first one to score a goal in a game.”
Always ready with a funny story or two, Townsend waxed nostalgic about a time when Lowell MacDonald was at training camp and the sports writer was visiting. “He quit training camp in Detroit when I was up there. Did you ever hear that story?”
It’s in the book and it goes like this: “I was scouting for the Leafs and was going around to the different training camps. I went down to Detroit to see Lowell, he was with the Red Wings. And the minute I went into the rink where he was working out with Detroit he skated right over and said, ‘I’m going home with you.’ He was having a contract dispute. He did come home with me; the two of us drove 25 hours non-stop — all the way from Detroit to Thorburn.”
Long story short, the next morning he was on a plane back to Detroit and he eventually signed with them.
This and other stories can be found in Remembering Pictou County, published by Advocate Printing & Publishing. The book will be available at The Advocate office on George Street, Pictou, and at the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame in New Glasgow. For every book sold in Pictou County, $10 will go to the hall of fame.
In between book writing, Townsend’s ‘Hugh’s Highland Views’ column can be found every week in The Advocate.